Suppose you are walking down the street and you come upon a big limo parked next to the sidewalk. Is your first instinct to say, “I’m going to go out and see if there’s a beautiful woman in that limo who wants me to leave my wife and run away with her?” Let’s hope not.
Spending the next eight months hoping LeBron James is coming back next summer makes about as much sense. Not only is it a major long shot, but thinking about that will only distract us from the fact that there are some seriously good players here now. I’m not going to sit here and say it won’t be easier to win a title if James decides to come back, but the talent level has reached the point where you can at least envision winning one if he doesn’t come back, and that should be our focus. My fear is that every transaction, every slump or hot streak and every freakin’ timeout that Mike Brown calls this season will be analyzed as to how it affects the chances of James coming back, instead of thinking about whether the players that are here can learn to play together and develop their skills enough to be part of the core of this team when it rejoins the elite of the NBA.
Trust me, if James decides to come back to Cleveland, I will be at the front of the parade that goes Right Down Euclid Avenue. I’m not one of those people who has been sticking needles in a LeBron voodoo doll for the past three years. But sometimes in sports, as in life, the best move is to enjoy the journey. We have an opportunity this year to witness the maturing of Kyrie Irving into a legitimate All-Star, to find out if Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters have what it takes to be core players on a championship-caliber team and to watch two more exciting rookies figure out the NBA.
At some point this year, the “expiring” contracts of Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao will be mentioned in trade rumors for big-name players whose games may or may not match their hype. As basketball junkies, that sort of thing is what we live for. And, let’s not forget, these guys will be playing meaningful games in March, April, and maybe even May.
Personally, I will be watching for the first time a Cavs opponent commits a 24-second violation because of harassing pressure defense and the first time the Cavs give up single-digit points in a quarter. That’s when the Byron Scott-era will officially end. There will be a moment when we see that spark of recognition in at least some of these guys who begin to understand that defense is what separates the great players from the guys who just put up numbers.
I believe that by the end of this season we will all have a list in our heads separating the guys who we want to have on the floor in the fourth quarter of a playoff game from everyone else, and we will know whether we have enough so that we can stop putting guys out there in crunch time who are overmatched.
Then Chris Grant can go into the next offseason with multiple draft picks, cap space, and trade chips and fill the last remaining holes that separate this team from elite status. If at that point it turns out that a certain player wants to take his talents from South Beach to the North Coast, then we can all get excited about that. But until that point, let’s just enjoy the season. After three years in the wilderness, Cavalier basketball should be fun again.